DALLAS—Volume servers, those commodity machines most enterprises have running somewhere in their IT systems, are the low-hanging fruit that the EPAs Energy Star server program is targeting first in its quest to bring more energy efficiency to the data center.
Andrew Fanara, director of the Energy Star Product Specifications Development Team, told a capacity audience of about 850 attendees at AFCOM Data Center World here at the Gaylord Texan hotel Sept. 17 that open-systems volume servers “are probably the least efficient in terms of power consumption, and are the easiest to convert or replace than other servers.”
Those inefficient and prolific servers are in large part responsible for the stunning fact that servers and supporting infrastructure represent 1.2 percent of all electricity used in the U.S., a figure which has doubled from 2000-2005 and expected to double again by 2011, Fanara said.
“Over the next five years, power failures and supply limitations will halt operations at some point in 90 percent of all data center operations. By next year, half of all data centers will have insufficient power supplies, which means we need to move quickly on this.”
To read about the EPAs efforts to give a tax break to companies with energy efficient IT practices, click here.
The EPA is in the process of developing Energy Star standards and certifications for various IT products, similar to existing Environmental Protection Agency programs for household appliances—starting first with servers. The Energy Star division filed a report to the EPA and Congress last month that challenged the vendors to focus on building only low-power servers, which be classified an Energy Star machine. It also outlined existing and emerging opportunities for energy efficiency, voluntary programs to promote energy-efficient servers and data centers and demands the federal government to lead by example to achieve energy conservation goals.
Fanara said hes been talking to “virtually all” of the major server makers and says they are all on board with the EPA as far as improving future versions of the products to make them more energy efficient.
Fanara said that the lack of realistic federal power efficiency and best-practice guidelines are a current barrier for server makers and enterprises that use them, both of which agree saving power is good for business and the environment.
Climbing power and cooling costs are becoming alarming issues for companies trying to rein in data center expenses. A number of companies, including Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, Advanced Micro Devices and Intel, as well as lesser-known ones such as Pillar Data Systems, BlueArc and Rackable Systems, have been proactive in building servers or processors that use energy much more efficiently.
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Yet overall power consumption continues to rise, due largely to the sheer number of servers being put into production, as well as some products with smaller form factors that run hotter.
Fanara said industry estimates indicate that servers and supporting infrastructure represented 1.2 percent of all electricity used in the U.S., a figure which has doubled from 2000-2005. “And we expect this to double again by 2011,” Fanara said.
As data centers expand by physical and virtual means in response to greater demand for Internet-based businesses and entertainment, the energy used by them also is increasing, Fanara said.
“All data center managers can expect this trend to impact the cost, supply, and reliability of energy delivered to their facilities and must plan accordingly,” Fanara said. “Some 82.5 percent of all AFCOM members have experienced a power outage in the last five years alone—and this number is fast increasing.
On the power side, there are five emerging trends coming into the data center, conference speaker Peter Panfil, vice president of power engineering at Liebert in Columbus, Ohio, told eWEEK.
“The first one is energy efficiency, which is a welcome one, and second is the need for flexibility in terms of power configuration or distribution,” Panfil told eWEEK. “Third is the need for monitoring, which is increasing all the way to the branch level. Data centers are even using monitoring to improve their availability.
“It used to be that monitoring was an I need help kind of notification. Now, its really a cooperative thing between the folks who are monitoring and the folks who are taking action.”
Alternative power configurations that can push up an overall utilization rate are another trend, Panfil said.
“One of the keys to this energy efficiency story is getting your utilization rate up,” Panfil said. “If you can get the most out of what youve got, youre in better shape than in ripping out what youve got and starting with something new.”
Enterprises can move from a simple data center (five or fewer servers) to a concurrently maintainable data center to a redundant component center to a fault-tolerant one, and retain original investment, Panfil said.
“Thats really what folks are after. They dont want to throw away what theyve already got,” Panfil said. “They want to be able to take what theyve already got, be able to reconfigure it by adding capacity or reconfiguring it in such a way that they can take advantage of these new higher-availability systems.”
AFCOM is an association for data center professionals, which offers services to help support the management of data centers around the world. Established in 1980, AFCOM currently has more than 3,600 members and 26 chapters worldwide.
Data Center World continues through Sept. 19 at the immense Gaylord Texan resort here on the shores of Lake Grapevine.
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